The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones

Thank you to Penguin Random House and the First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I love dystopian novels and anything that is really full of creepy crawlies. This novel seemed like the perfect fit for me so I was super excited to read it! Here is my review:

In an unspecified future, the United States’ borders have receded behind a salt line, which is a ring of scorched earth to protect citizens from ticks that carry disease. Those that live within the zone are safe but are controlled by this common fear. Few have any real reason to leave the safe zone … except for the adrenaline junkies who are willing to pay a hefty price in order to enjoy what is left of nature. Among the latest expedition are a popstar and his girlfriend, Edie; tech giant, Wes; and Marta, a simple housewife. Once they leave the safe zone, the group are at the mercy of deadly ticks – and in the center of a murderous plot. They become captives in Ruby City, a community made up of outer-zone survivors. As alliances and friendships shift, the hostages must decide how far they are willing to go to get back to safety.

I really wanted to like this novel but I found I couldn’t get into it at all, and I had to add it to my DNF pile. While the story seemed interesting in its premise, I just couldn’t get interested enough to pursue this novel. The pacing was quite slow and that made it a bit harder for me to read because I really wanted to get to the good bits as fast as possible. I also didn’t feel any real connection with any of the characters; they just didn’t have enough for me to feel that emotional tug. I don’t really want to write too much on this review since I haven’t fully read the novel and others who have finished it would have a better idea on it, but for me, this novel gets a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

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Select by Marit Weisenberg

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sometimes, all I really want is to read some YA fiction. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often given my work and my looooong TBR list. Happily, this was one of the novels on that list so I could shoot two birds with one stone! Here is my review:

17-year-old Julia Jaynes comes from a very wealthy family. She is freakishly athletic, intelligent, and beautiful. But everyone in her community is like that. That’s because they all come from a race of highly-evolved humans living in the heart of Texas. In order to protect themselves and preserve their elite society, Julia’s powerful father has forced her to suppress her abilities. But when she accidentally demonstrates her powers in public, she is banished to the local public high school. Not only must Julia navigate through the confusion that is high school, she must also pretend to be a normal human being, which is not an easy task. Julia just wants to keep her head down and leave as soon as possible – but then she meets John Ford. And there is an instant connection between the two. She can even read his mind! But as Julia’s newfound powers grow, so do her feelings for Josh. When she discovers her father’s secrets, Julia begins to question her restrictive upbringing. Now, she must decide who she truly is – and who she will betray to maintain her new identity.

So what drew me to this book in the first place was the science fiction element. Of course, from the blurb, I knew there was a fair bit of romance. What I wasn’t expecting was that 90% of this novel would be romance and only 10% would be actual science fiction. That part was a big disappointment because I thought there would be more to her powers than what the author had in mind. I think if the author had spent more time developing the science fiction aspect of the story, there would have been more depth to the story. However …. I still really enjoyed the book. I usually don’t like romance novels; they make me cringe with the clichéd phrases. But for some reason, this one worked. Now, I’m not saying that the romance between Josh and Julia was spot-on; there were some definite holes in the way things worked and developed between the two. But it also reminded me of my own high school experiences, the friendships that blossom into something more, and the sweetness of first love. It was cute and sweet and simple and I liked it. I also liked that the author showed how Julia was affected by the actions and thoughts of other characters. While this made the story more of a realistic fiction than science fiction, it was an aspect that was still well done. Now, if you were looking for a good science fiction novel, then this is not the one for you. I mean, it seriously has nothing to offer in terms of that genre. If you like sweet romance mixed with family drama, then you would probably enjoy this story. Because that’s pretty much what it’s all about. Because the science fiction part was misleading but I actually enjoyed the romance part of this story, I’m giving this a 3.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Hanna Who Fell From the Sky by Christopher Meades

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The description of this book hinted at some kind of magical element, and that automatically had me intrigued. I wanted to see how the author would tie in a fantasy element with a story that revolves around polygamy. Here is my review:

Hanna has lived her entire life within the secluded community of Clearhaven. Her father has 4 wives and Hanna has 14 siblings. And in one week, on her 18th birthday, Hanna will follow tradition and leave her home to become the 5th wife of a man who is double her age. But days before the wedding, Hanna meets Daniel, a stranger with links to the community who challenges her beliefs and urges her to follow her own will. And when Hanna’s mother tells her a secret about her existence, Hanna realizes that this could be the ticket to the freedom she has always sought. But leaving Clearhaven means abandoning her beloved younger sisters and the only home she’s ever known? Can she turn her back on them and seek out her own destiny? Or is there another option – one too fantastical to believe?

The author does not wait to jump into the story, as the first scene is about how Hanna is only a few days away from her birthday – and her impending marriage. Right away, it is made known to the reader that Hanna does not want to go through with this marriage, but is doing so in order to uphold tradition and also protect her mother and siblings. The introduction of Daniel’s character happened pretty much the way I thought it would happen, and he became the catalyst for her dreams of escaping and wanting more for herself. I really enjoyed reading about her dilemma, as the author did a great job explaining all of the angles and options Hanna was considering. I also really liked Hanna’s character: she had opinions, intelligence, and was brave to a fault. I had been intrigued by the “fantastical” element in the premise, and when the author brought it up, it took me aback. It was very much something out of a fantasy/sci-fi story, and I thought it interesting that the author added this into the story. I wanted to see how the author would develop this detail. However, he really didn’t do so and that was quite disappointing to me. I really don’t like it when an author introduces something as a twist but it ultimately serves no purpose (which is what happened here). Either the author should have just eliminated that whole fantasy aspect, or developed it more so that it had an actual purpose in the plot. Overall, the story was a good one, but not anything different than other books on this topic. It was well-written and the main character was someone a reader could easily empathize with, but the addition of the fantasy element was really unnecessary and a bit of a let-down. For those reasons, I’m giving this novel a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Burntown by Jennifer McMahon

I love weird stories. The wackier, the better. It’s one of the reasons I love Joan Aiken’s Wolves Chronicles series. While I’ve never heard of this author before this book, I read that she had a reputation for coming up with wild stories. So I decided to get started with this one. Here is my review:

Eva grew up watching her father, Miles, invent strange and wonderful things in the small workshop behind their house on the river that runs through their old mill town. But the most important invention that Miles every made came from the mind of Thomas Edison: a machine that lets you talk to the dead. The bluepritns for this machine has been passed down to Miles and he’s been using it to protect his family. But one night, when a fierce storm is raging and there is the threat of a flood, the machine comes to life and delivers a single message: you’re in terrible danger. The next thing Eva knows, she is waking up by the river and only her mother is there. Her father and brother are dead, the house is gone, and there is an evil man out to get them. Eva changes her name to Necco and tries to forget about her past as she and her mother live life off the grid. But when her mother dies and her boyfriend is murdered, Necco is convinced that her past is catching up to her. What really happened that night? As Necco tries to discover the truth, she connects with 2 other women who are on their own desperate quests. And as the trio follow the clues, they discover that sometimes it’s the smallest towns that hold the strangest secrets.

Before this novel, I would never have thought that so many mismatched parts could come together to create a cohesive and interesting story. But they did. And I loved every minute of it. There is a paranormal aspect, with visions and psychic abilities and machines that let you communicate with the dead. There is a mystery element where people keep dying but you don’t know why. There’s a thriller aspect where the main character is being hunted by a man wearing a chicken skin mask. In all, it’s a crazy mess. But it worked on so many levels. There was not a single boring moment in this story. And the author managed to run so many different storylines at the same time! There are 3 main female characters and they each got their moment in the spotlight, which I really loved. The way it all got tied in was unexpected but it worked with the weirdness of the premise. I’m still shocked by how everything was put together … but I definitely enjoyed this read! This is not a traditional book in any way so I would recommend this to people who enjoy crazy stories with super interesting and zany plots! I can’t wait to read more by this author!

Hapyp reading ~

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

Thank you to Penguin Random House and the First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for my honest review!

Reincarnation has always been an interesting concept for me, especially since it is a part of my religion. I’ve had many debates on my views on reincarnation, and I always like reading about others’ unique perspectives on it. I was super excited to read this ARC so here is my review:

What if you could live forever—but without your one true love? Milo has been reincarnated numerous times, but he’s just found out that he only gets up to 10,000 chances to search for the secret to immortality or else he can never be with his beloved, the incarnation of Death. The problem is Milo is almost at the max limit – and he needs to find the answer fast! As Milo travels from ancient India to outer space to Renaissance Italy to the present day, he makes an even deeper journey into the makings of the human heart.

What an awesome story! This novel had me from the first page with its unique take on reincarnation as well as its storytelling style. The author goes about this telling this tale in two ways: first, there is Milo’s story and we get multiple chapters taking us through the adventures of some of his lives; and second, we get Suzie, the incarnation of Death, and her own struggle to create her own fate. This novel made me connect so strongly with the characters. I cried, laughed, and sympathized with Milo and Suzie and the author did a fantastic job in making me invested in the fate of the characters. Simply put, this novel was engrossing and written amazingly well. It almost felt like a short story collection, with each reincarnation being a separate story – except it was better because the author managed to connect it all and create a cohesive plot. I really cannot rave more about this novel, but if you are looking for a very unique storyline, then please give this novel a shot! I guarantee you won’t regret it!

Happy reading ~

The Dying Game by Asa Avdic

Thank you to Penguin Random House and First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

The premise for this novel seemed so interesting, and I thought it would be the perfect read when flying off to my vacation destination. It was portrayed as a thriller … and we all know how much I love my thrillers!

In the year 2037, 7 people are chosen to participate in a 48-hr competition on the tiny island of Isola. Their prize: a top-secret intelligence position with the totalitarian Union of Friendship. Anna Francis didn’t really want to be a part of this. But as a workaholic bureaucrat with a 9-year-old daughter to care for, she didn’t really have a choice. Plus the Union President knows her secret … and if that was ever discovered, it would destroy her. However, Anna isn’t really a candidate for the position; in fact, she is the test. Her assignment is to stage her own death and then observe how the other 6 candidates behave from her hiding place. Everything is set in place… but then a storm rolls in, the power goes out, and the real game begins ….

This is one of those times where the premise is better than the actual story. I thought I was getting into something that would be intensely thrilling and packed with action. Instead, this book was slow paced, with tons of little anecdotes on Anna’s life before this competition. The author switched between different points in time and different characters. While this was interesting and appreciated, it made it super easy to guess what happened and what was going to happen in terms of the competition. That was a bit of a let-down because I was hoping it would be something of a mystery or a twist … and there wasn’t one. The novel may be set in 2037 but there really wasn’t too much that made it different than 2017, so that was a bit useless in my opinion. Overall, this novel just let me down. I was expecting a thriller but instead, I got an okay novel about a competition where I had already guessed the main points of the story.

Happy reading ~

Vector by James Abel – Joe Rush #4

I’m always excited to read novels that deal with biological warfare or viruses. Thank you to First to Read program and Penguin Random House for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Joe Rush is at an Amazon gold rush studying new forms of malaria, when his best friend, Eddie Nakamura, disappears. As Rush begins to search for Eddie, he discovers that many sick miners have also vanished.
Miles away, tons of sick people are starting to appear in US hospitals. When the White House admits that they received terrorist threats, cities all over begin to shut down. Rush and his team must come back to America, as the clock ticks toward an unimaginable annihilation. Time is short because the situation, while bad, is about to get even worse.

While this novel is part of a series, you can easily read it as a standalone. Now, I’ve read quite a few biological thrillers. The best praise I can give for this novel is that it wasn’t terrible. There was nothing that I really loved about this novel but it wasn’t terrible enough to warrant a bad rating. I had no feelings while reading this book. I didn’t get excited, I didn’t get attached to any characters… it was just a blah experience for me. This novel is mostly told from Joe’s perspective but it does shift to other POVs – including that of a mosquito. Yeah, you read that right. A mosquito. It was weird and I’m not sure if it was really necessary or helpful. I appreciated the amount of research that the author did on malaria; it was very thorough and gave reader an indepth knowledge into the disease as well as how mutations work in general. Overall, this novel was okay. It wasn’t really memorable but it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read.

Happy reading ~

Skitter by Ezekiel Boone – The Hatching #2

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I read The Hatching, which is the prequel to this novel, it made me terrified of spiders. It was an amazingly freaky novel that had so many elements that worked so wonderfully and I just loved every minute of the adventure, while also being horrified with every page I turned. I was super excited to read this sequel and I have been holding back for a long time on writing this review, so here you go:

Since the discovery of the spiders, millions of people around the world are dead. No country is safe, and the mysterious flesh-eating spiders are running rampant all through America. Scientist Melanie Gruyer is hoping that the spider situation will change and finally become easier to deal with. However, Japan has just noticed the presence of a giant glowing egg sack that threatens to break that illusion, at the same time as survivors in Los Angeles begin to panic and break the quarantine zone. Out in the desert, survivalists Gordo and Shotgun are bored out of their mind and decide to invent a weapon to defeat the spiders … but it may all be in vain because President Pilgrim has just enacted the Spanish Protocol. America, it’s every man for themselves.

I didn’t think the sequel could be as good as the first book. It was. Once again, the author seamlessly tied in multiple events and characters in a way that worked. Every single person was important in depicting the mass destruction and chaos wrought by these spiders. It was spectacular to see this large-scale disaster being orchestrated so beautifully by the author …. while also creeping me out! The author kept the tension high and raised the stakes with new revelations about these spiders and the way they attack people. What I loved about this book was that the author managed to tease out various emotions while also writing such a fast-paced novel. I could literally see various different characters going through so many complex emotions and I was really able to connect and live this experience through them. The novel ends in a cliffhanger and I seriously need the author to write the next novel ASAP because I HAVE to know what’s going on! If you are looking for a fantastic thriller with loads of adventure and spiders, then please please please do yourself a favour and give this series a try! It’s definitely worth the effort!

Happy reading ~

Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is a collection of short stories that all revolve around the idea of technology and the ways in which we use it to communicate and make our lives simpler. The stories in this book take place in the near future and show the good – and the bad – side of technology. I found the premise interesting enough to follow it up with a request, so thank you to the author, publishers and NetGalley for this ARC!

Children of the New World introduces readers to a near-future world of social media implants, memory manufacturers, immersive virtual reality games, and intuitive robots.
In “The Cartographers,” the main character works for a company that creates and sells virtual memories, but he soon begins to struggle differentiating what is real from his own creations. In “Saying Goodbye to Yang,” the robotic brother of an adopted Chinese child malfunctions, and it is only when he is gone that the family realizes how real of a son he was.  Children of the New World grapples with our unease in this modern world and our ever-growing dependence on new technologies.

The idea behind every story is brilliant. There are memories that you can order and implant, virtual worlds that you can live in, instant messages that you can send through technology implanted in your eye…. the possibilities are endless. But each story is disquieting in the way it peels back the layers and shows the flip side to the zealous use of technology. The author shows irony at its finest in this short story collection. However, while the concept and the ideas themselves are brilliant, the characters are not. In every story, it felt like there was just a lack of emotion. Every character fell flat and seemed lifeless. There was no connection between the reader and the characters, which resulted in apathy towards the fate of said characters. Most of my time was spent musing on the interesting scenarios that the author presented rather than focusing on the lives of these characters and the difficulties they faced as a result of technology. Overall, while the concept was interesting, the characters were not, and this is why I would give this a 3.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Space Between The Stars by Anne Corlett

I have been super excited to read this novel because it had such a unique dystopian presence. I like the idea of space travel and thought it would be an interesting element to this dystopian novel. Thank you to the First to Read program by Penguin Randomhouse for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space, so much so that she willingly left Earth and moved to a more isolated planet. It is the perfect way for her to escape the sadness of her dissolving relationship. And then the virus hit. Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone. But a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that there may be survivors. When she finds some of them, their ragtag group will travel through vast stretches of space to try to start a new life on Earth. But their dream becomes harder and harder to reach as they face off against those trying to maintain the old ways of life.

If you are looking for a sci-fi heavy novel, then this one is not for you. This novel turned out to be a lot more philosophical as the physical journey the survivors take gives way to their inner journey. It was a novel that had enough suspense to keep you going, and didn’t drag you down with too many words. It never tried to impose any ideas on you, and allowed the reader to come to their own conclusions about each of the characters. I quite enjoyed the writing style and the revelations of the different characters. However, the main character was hard for me to empathize with. She was constantly whining, and rarely helpful. She became an irritating character who didn’t really do much to redeem herself. Overall, this novel is a very nicely written philosophical novel that takes place in a dystopian universe. However, the main character is hard to connect with at times, and the novel doesn’t have a heavy sci-fi connection (even though that is what it was portrayed to be). For all these reasons, I would give this novel a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~